Iowa soccer takes on Big Ten Tournament action against Penn State

The Hawkeyes are the No.5 seed in the Big Ten Tournament, and they will play at No. 4 Penn State on Sunday for the first meeting between these teams this season.


Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa midfielder Isabella Blackman runs down the field during a women's soccer match between Iowa and Maryland at the Iowa Soccer Complex on Sunday, October 13, 2019. The Hawkeyes shut out the Terrapins, 4-0.

Isaac Goffin, Sports Reporter

With an overall record of 15-3-1 (7-3-1 in the Big Ten) in the regular season, the Hawkeyes will begin their run in the Big Ten Tournament as the No. 5 seed on Sunday. They will play at No. 4 Penn State in a kickoff at noon.

Though the Hawkeyes have played 12 teams in the Big Ten, which includes Michigan in exhibition play, the Nittany Lions are the only Big Ten team they haven’t seen yet anywhere this season.

“I like it, personally, because we get to see how we play against a different team,” senior captain and defender Hannah Drkulec said. “Playing the same team again can have its own challenges, so playing a new team can be good, because you get to experience how more teams play and different styles of play to prepare you to move on.”

Even though they haven’t played each other this season, the Hawkeyes feel confident they can matchup with the Nittany Lions’ style of play.

“They’re an extremely technical team,” senior captain and midfielder Isabella Blackman said. “That’s one of their biggest assets. They can move the ball, pass the ball really well, and that’s how they break a lot of teams down, just attacking through the center. But I think our defensive shape is made just for that.”

Head coach Dave DiIanni agrees that he likes his team against the Nittany Lions, saying he wouldn’t trade his team for any other. He described the Nittany Lions as a young team that also happens to be very talented.

The Nittany Lions have some of the best players in the conference. Redshirt freshman midfielder Ally Schlegel tied the conference lead for goals this season at 11 and junior midfielder and forward Frankie Tagliaferri tied the conference lead for assists this season at nine.

Happy Valley has never been an easy place for the Hawkeyes to play, as they’ve never won there.

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“In the past, I think they’ve been overwhelmed heading into Penn State,” DiIanni said. “I think this group has had some good results on the road, and I think we’re a bit more battle tested. On the same token, we know Penn State’s a very good team. It’s going to be a great challenge, and I think it’s as a good four-five seed as you can find in our conference.”

Besides the Nittany Lions having historically great teams, their home field environment is also known for being great.

“They always have a great student section and their band,” Drkulec said. “They will always have an atmosphere that’s supporting them, but I love to have the excitement for the game and people excited to watch us play, even if they’re hoping we don’t do well, but it’s nice to see the support around women’s soccer, so it’s always fun for me to play there.”

The last time the Hawkeyes defeated the Nittany Lions was in the 2013 Big Ten Tournament semifinals in Champaign, Illinois. 2013 is the only year the Hawkeyes have made the NCAA Tournament.

And even with the Hawkeyes showing remanence of the 2013 team, they know the NCAA Tournament is not a guarantee yet.

“We have no choice to take this game as, quite frankly, possibly the last opportunity to prove ourselves for Big Ten standings and NCAA standings, as well,” Blackman said. “I think everyone on our team knows what’s at stake here, and we’re all ready to lay it out on the field and play, quite literally, as if it’s our last game ever.”

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